CMA Awards 2018

Buckcherry's Josh Todd Reminisces About Band's Make-or-Break Album '15'

Strati Hovartos
Buckcherry

Back in 2006, Buckcherry experienced a comeback that most bands only dream of. After two moderately successful albums and a three-year breakup, the Josh Todd-led act re-formed and released its most successful album to date, 15. Fueled by the raucously raunchy, Grammy-nominated lead single “Crazy Bitch” and the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 ballad “Sorry,” the set was certified platinum by the RIAA.

Prior to its career-defining comeback, Buckcherry — currently comprising Todd, guitarists Keith Nelson and Stevie D., bassist Kelly LeMieux and drummer Xavier Muriel — was best known for its jubilant ode to cocaine, “Lit Up,” which reached No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock chart in 1999. Post-15, the Orange County, Calif., band has released four more studio albums and made a splash on YouTube in 2014 with its revved-up cover of Icona Pop’s “I Love It.”

To mark the 10-year anniversary of 15, Buckcherry performed the album in its entirety during a September/October anniversary tour in North America and launched a PledgeMusic campaign that promises to reissue the album in October with new content and press it on vinyl for the first time.

Here, Todd talks to Billboard about how the band picked up the pieces from its breakup and cobbled together a comeback. He also reveals why, despite being sober, he still fondly looks back on indulging in drugs and alcohol and how Paris Hilton, of all people, inspired “Crazy Bitch.”

What’s your favorite song to perform live from 15?

Probably “Brooklyn,” because we haven’t played it for a long time. I also like doing “So Far” because the lyrics take me back to why I started doing this in the first place: “I didn’t do it for money/ I did it all for free/ I did it all to fill the f—ing hole inside of me.” That’s why I got into music — to fill that hole. When I was 15, I had my first garage-jam session where I plugged in a mic and just started screaming. I started writing lyrics right then and there on the floor. I had a lot going on when I was a kid, and music became my outlet. Everybody needs a passion, and I found it that day.

15 proved to be a comeback that nobody ever expected.

It was pretty extraordinary. Everybody told us we were has-beens. Nobody wanted the record in the United States — no one. We got a small deal with Universal in Japan and made the record in 15 days — hence the title. Then our manager at the time started a label just to put it out in the U.S. — Eleven Seven Music, which has a lot more artists on it now [including Mötley Crüe and Papa Roach]. When “Crazy Bitch” took off, everybody was our friend again.

What was the secret sauce that made it so successful?

I know exactly what it was: We were all focused on the same outcome. We were all broke. We were all working regular jobs again. We had put out two records and traveled the world, but we had no money. So we had faith that this was going to work out — it had to, because we all had financial problems. We believed in it even when everybody was telling us it wouldn’t work. No one else did, though. But we were like, “This is going to happen.” And thank God everything aligned.

Which is the bigger song to you: “Crazy Bitch” or “Sorry”?

We’ve always had ballads on our records. But 15 was the only record where we had money behind a ballad and got promoted the right way on radio — and look what happened. On the charts, it was bigger than “Crazy Bitch.” [The song matched the No. 9 peak of“Crazy Bitch” on the Hot 100 and reached No. 5 on the Pop Songs chart.] But “Crazy Bitch” was more of a phenomenon that took on a life of its own. We had originally chosen “Next 2 You” as the first single off the album and were getting ready to make a video when “Crazy Bitch” started taking off on MySpace, which was big at the time. Then radio stations started playing a clean version of the song, and we were like, “Holy s--t,” and jumped on it.

What was the inspiration behind “Crazy Bitch”?

Well, it was right around the time Paris Hilton’s sex tape came out, and I was driving around L.A. in my Toyota truck thinking, “Isn’t it amazing how somebody can launch an entertainment career with a homemade sex tape?” I just couldn’t believe it. That led to me reminiscing about when I was younger and had all these girls that I was involved with. They were all really good in bed but just plain crazy and not good girlfriends. I started singing the chorus, and that was it.

Did you know you had a comeback hit on your hands?

No. We just wanted to make the best record we could make at the time. In my head I kept thinking, “Man, I hope we can beat the success of ‘Lit Up.’ ” All I wanted to do was beat that song! (Laughs.)

What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened while you were onstage singing “Crazy Bitch”?

One time this girl was up against the front barricade and a guy was behind her, and I could tell they were plotting something, so I was watching them throughout the show. When “Crazy Bitch” started, he lifted up her skirt and started f—ing her right there. There are so many stories like that. One time a guy got a blowjob behind the PA speakers onstage. Another time we played this biker event on a farm in Indiana. It was private property, so there was no law enforcement, and it was like a nudist colony. People were naked and doing all sorts of crazy things.

You have been sober for more than 20 years — since before Buckcherry even started. Is it ever challenging to stay sober on the road?

Not at all. I was really f—ed up from the age of 13 to 23 and in bad shape. I was a very bad alcoholic and drug addict. When I got sober, there was a reason: I got arrested for DUI in Orange County, Calif., which is where I’m from. They made me go to 36 AA meetings as part of my punishment — and I’ve been going ever since. It changed my life. This was around the time when my first daughter was born. I didn’t want her to see me f—ed up — and she never has. It took a lot of work, but I built a good foundation that allowed me to go out on tour and not worry about relapsing. I had three or four years under my belt before I became a touring musician. I still love watching people party and have fun, but it just isn’t for me anymore.

Some of your songs, like “Lit Up” and “Too Drunk [to F—],” deal with drinking and drugs in a nostalgic way. Why do you write lyrics about being f—ed up when you’re sober?

I believe that music is most influential when you’re a teenager. You’re developing your independence and going through a lot of weird s--t with your body, finding out about sex and getting loaded — it’s an exciting time. And for a long time around that time, drinking and using drugs was amazing for me. It was a lot of fun before it got super dark. So I like to go back to reminisce about the exciting, fun times. There are always a few of those songs on Buckcherry albums, but there’s also a lot of other stuff. It’s just that those particular songs are the ones that get glorified.

Do you let your kids listen to your music?

Oh, yeah. I have a very open relationship with my kids. I went to an AA meeting today with my 10-year-old daughter. She knows everything. I’ve explained to them that part of my job is using certain words to express myself and that it’s an art form. They get it.

If someone didn’t know much about you — especially that you’re 20-plus years sober and married with kids — they might think you lead a womanizing party lifestyle…

That’s something I don’t understand. Yeah, I’ve had a lot of crazy experiences in my life, and I write about those experiences — and all my experiences. I don’t care if I’m experiencing them right now or if they were in my past, I’m going to write about them. As a songwriter, that’s what you do. Unfortunately, I do think it has worked against us to some degree because sometimes people are like, “You’re sober?!” And I’m like, “So what!” If a guy sings “My Sharona” and he’s not f—ing Sharona any more, who gives a shit! It’s still a great song. He f—ed her that one time and then he wrote a great song about it!